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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Tyson (review)

Alas that Mike Tyson is a newsworthy figure — and now the “cool celebrity cameo” in The Hangover! — because James Toback’s talking-head documentary portrait of the man serves only to show us a reprehensible example of the worst of American manhood, and of American celebrity. This is not a man who deserves a soapbox dedicated to excusing and justifying his own brutal behavior, yet ironically it’s only his own notoriety that excuses — barely — and justifes the film’s existence at all. It makes me want to rail that we should not be further feeding any disillusions Tyson has about himself, or that our culture has about glorifying vicious brutes as it has done with Tyson, by even dignifying the movie by acknowledging its existence, but perhaps there’s something worthwhile to be found in seeing this angry, bitter man exposing himself so thoroughly — and unwittingly — as he does here. Full of rage and lacking any graciousness, Tyson talks nonstop about himself for 90 minutes, offering little evidence of any true insight into his own character beyond the most banal platitudes and clichés about absent fathers and the dominance of male sexuality, though he clearly believes himself to be deeply poetic and philosophical. Toback, an admitted fan of Tyson, bombards us with split screens and multiple angles on the boxer as he discusses himself that might have been an attempt to distract us from how repetitive and just plain thick Tyson’s ramblings are… or else Toback actually buys into Tyson’s bizarre self-image as a thoughtful gentleman athlete. I wish that delusion was funny to behold, but it’s profoundly disturbing.


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MPAA: rated R for language including sexual references

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
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